4-6, Unit Six, Activity 6: "Up the Down Tree House"

Students will be able to explain the process of decomposition, identify a variety of organisms involved in decomposition and discuss food chains associated with a fallen tree.

Grades: 4 – 6
Time: 1 hour
Subjects: Dramatic arts, life science

Outdoors -outline a long rectangular area to simulate a fallen tree.


  • Script
  • Teacher made, laminated picture necklaces for each part in the play from old magazines or Internet photos (see bold names in script).

1. Pass out the picture necklaces to students, directing them to hang the pictures around their necks so their character can be seen by their classmates. If they do not know what their character is, tell them the name of their organism is written on the back. (Explain that an organism refers to all living things; bacteria, insects, birds, animals, etc.) Extra students should be paired with those having a necklace, so that all students have a part to play.
2. Explain to the students that you will be narrating the play, “Up The Down Tree House,” about the web of life that turns a dead, fallen tree into new life for the forest. When the students hear their animal read in the play, they are to go over to the log and act out the activity their animal performs, as described in the play.
3. Tell the students that, if they are eaten by another animal during the course of the play, they are to stop their activity and go to the “Observation Area” which you have designated and from there they will observe the rest of the play.
4. Perform the play and at the end announce "Curtain call!"
5. Gather the students around the “tree” for the assessment discussion.

Variations and Extensions:
Have students gather piece of rotting log overnight, placing it in a plastic bag immediately and transporting it to school. Pick apart the logs and see what lives there. Be sure to put the log and its inhabitants back where it came from so the process can continue!

What is the name of the process you have just acted out?” “What is decomposition?” “How long does it take for a fallen tree to return to soil?” “How does each animal prepare habitat for some other to follow?...Let’s start with the microorganisms and work our way up.”

Continue questioning the students until they have reached the top of the food chain. What is the significance of the play’s title, “Up The Down Tree House?” “How many simple food chains resulting from the dead tree can you name?” “Did you know there was such a rich variety of life in a fallen tree?” “Does this change your perception of snags and fallen trees?”

Last updated: November 8, 2017

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